How innovation powerhouse South Korea can be a springboard for your startup’s success

The K-Startup Grand Challenge 2021, organised by the Government of South Korea, offers a fantastic global platform for startups looking to expand across the robust Asian market

South Korea is often described as the gateway to Asia, and not without reason. The country is home to some of the most innovative industries and companies in the world such as Samsung, Hyundai, LG and The Shinhan Group, among others. Burgeoning investments in artificial intelligence, big data, virtual reality, and renewable energies have also kept South Korea on top of several innovation indices. The most prominent of these is South Korea’s number one position in the Bloomberg Innovation Index for 2021.

South Korea’s outstanding performance in research and development (R&D) intensity has led it to become a global leader in information and communication technologies. With a robust ICT infrastructure, high-speed internet, the highest broadband penetration rate in the world (97 percent), plus fast 5G network rollout and high technology uptake, South Korea continues to top the charts as an innovation powerhouse. With 221 accelerators and 134 innovation centres as of February 2020, the country is also among the most vibrant startup ecosystems in the world.

Building on this robust ecosystem is the K-Startup Challenge.

Organised and financed by the Government of South Korea, this 3.5 month-long accelerator programme is back for 2021—and is bigger and better than ever. Applications for this grand challenge are now open.

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Taking startups to the world

Launched in 2016, the K Startup Challenge aims to provide startups from around the world with the required support, investments and opportunities to begin business in Asia. Last year, the programme witnessed participation from startups with solutions across artificial intelligence, logistics, biotech, robotics, beauty wearables, gaming, urban solutions, and more.

The South-Asian region received 62 startup applications from India, Sri Lanka, Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Nepal, Pakistan, UAE, Uzbekistan, and Palestine. The shortlisted startups took part in a two-day online pitch session to a 11-member jury panel from the Indian startup ecosystem. Following the live pitching round, two promising startups were selected to enter the robust Asian market, via South Korea.

Success stories

Growfitter, a machine learning-based incentivised wellness platform, was shortlisted among a host of others from India to fly to South Korea for the global accelerator program in 2020.

In the 2019 edition, four Indian startups successfully ventured into the Korean Market. These included MicroX Labs, a platform for disposable cartridge-based products that can be used for multiple applications; and Incubig, a company that is creating customised IP profiles of individual innovators and startups to provide 360-degree patent analytics relevant to their product/technology., an AI-based export distribution channel for exporters to promote products to Indian buyers; and Xenon Automotive, an app that uses images or videos to determine the extent of damage on a car and instantly generates repair estimates, were the other two from India to foray into South Korea.

A large number of prominent Korean companies that are involved in the programme have expressed interest in collaborating with startups from around the world. The K-Startup Grand Challenge thus offers an unprecedented opportunity for startups to interact with the most innovative and influential Korean companies that have a prominent global presence.

Advantage South Korea

Located in East Asia, South Korea has strong cultural and economic ties with China, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and more. Startups could take advantage of South Korea’s favourable location to expand a startup across the Asian market.

Home to 11 unicorns, South Korea’s active and well-designed startup ecosystem regularly attracts the attention of investors, accelerators and incubators from all around the world. Google, for example, launched its first-ever Asian Google Campus in Seoul. Facebook is also on board with its New innovation Lab opened in Pangyo. Projects between conglomerates and startups are also active under government directions.

Apply for the K Startup Challenge 2021

Promising startups with a clear objective to expand into Asia by using the Korean market as a stepping-stone may register and apply for the K Startup Challenge 2021 here. Applications close 15th June.

The startups should be less than 7 years old or must be a pre-entrepreneur whose representatives hold a foreign nationality. This year, the challenge is also open to university students!

Apart from the opportunity to scale and expand your business across Asia, the top 60 selected startups also get access to state-of-the-art Korean R&D Labs. The top 30 startups will receive funding for 3.5 months, while there is a prize pool of $320,000 for the final 10 startups. Moreover, all living expenses are covered during the programme for all the startups while you get the chance to work out of the Startup Campus in Pangyo Techno Valley.

Don't miss this opportunity to get expert mentorship, corporate partnerships, investments and a taste of Korean entrepreneurship! Apply for the K-Startup Challenge 2021 today!


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